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WOMAN'S LIFE 139
rest is unimportant compared with their position in the home,
in which they live and move and have their being.
In the home the woman rules. No modern man can still
believe with Shakespeare that "Frailty, thy name is woman!"
Shakespeare disproved this himself with his Cleopatra, and
with King Lear's daughters. Close observation of Chinese life
seems to disprove the prevalent notion of woman's dependence.
The Chinese Empress Dowager ruled the nation, whether
Emperor Hsienfeng was living or not. There are many Empress
Dowagers in China still, politically or in common households.
The home is the throne from which she makes appointments
for mayors or decides the professions of her grandsons.
The more one knows Chinese life, the more one realizes that
the so-called suppression of women is an Occidental criticism
that somehow is not borne out by a closer knowledge of Chinese
life. That phrase certainly cannot apply to the Chinese mother
and supreme arbiter of the household. Anyone who doubts
this should read the Red Chamber Dream, a monument of Chinese
home life. Study the position of the grandmother Chiamu, the
relationship between Fengchieh and her husband, or that of
any other couple (that of the father Chia Cheng and his wife
is perhaps most normal and typical) and see whether it is the
man or the woman who rules in the family. Some Western
women readers might envy the position of the old grandmother,
who was the most honoured person in the whole household,
who was treated with decency and respect, and to whose cham-
ber the daughters-in-law repaired almost every morning to pay
their respects and decide the most important family affairs.
What if Chiamu had a pair of bound feet and was secluded?
The doorkeepers and men servants had to use their feet more
than she. Or study the character of Madame Water, the
mother of the Confucian hero in Tehsao Paqyen, who was well
educated and a 'model of Confucian wisdom, and who was
undoubtedly the highest character in the whole novel. One
word from her could bring her son the prime minister to his
knees, and she watched over the welfare of the big family with
infinite wisdom as a mother hen guards over her chicken-yard.
She ruled with a wise and benign rulership, and all the
daughters-in-law were her willing slaves. The character is